So, lately I’ve been consumed with my summer trip to Turkey and Greece that I’m planning for this upcoming September. Yeah, I know September isn’t really summer, but I initially was planning to go in June until I saw that flight prices were much cheaper for September. So I caved. Plus, the weather in the places I’ll be heading will still be decent to soak up the sun and hit those lovely island beaches in the Mediterranean. Also, less touristy crowds, as people will be heading back to school/work from vacation as I’m starting mine!
But all this trip planning got me thinking about what I’m going to pack. Packing for a trip is always so tricky. For my first trip I packed what I needed and then some. There were a few pieces of clothing that I just didn’t wear, so I learned not to overpack when it comes to clothes. But I also learned there were a lot of stuff that I wish I had packed for my two month backpacking trip. I even made a list when I got back home from my trip, so that I’ll remember for the next time. Anyway, here are 10 things to take on a backpacking trip. Forgive me, it may be a bit Americanized, but that’s because these were items I found myself either using a lot or wishing I had packed before I left the States because I just couldn’t find them anywhere else.
- A towel. And a good one, not one of those “quick drying” towels. From experience, while a quick drying towel does what it’s advertise to do, it’s horrible at actually drying you. After a pat down, you’re still left uncomfortably moist. That, and since it soaks up four times its weight in liquid, it can develop a really unpleasant scent after a few days of use while traveling. Air drying it out does not make things better. Some hostels may provide towels for a fee, but they may not be a clean as you’d like them. Avoid the hassle. Bring a normal towel.
- A blanket. If you’re truly backpacking, either camping out or hitting up random hostels along the way, you might want to pack a warm decent sized blanket. Even in the summer, nights in certain places can get a bit chilly. Plus, some hostels either don’t provide blankets or they do, but for a small price. Other hostels provide their blankets for free, but unlike the clean white sheets, these blankets are rarely washed and some may contain really unpleasant things that you don’t want to encounter. Trust me, better to bring your own blanket.
- A water bottle. Like, one of those steel ones. Chances are you’ll be spending lots of money buying bottled water…and bottled water is expensive. Depending where you are, the tap water should be safe for you to drink. For instance, when I was in Europe, I pretty much drank the tap water in most of the places I stayed at. They all had their own tastes and bacteria and whatnot, but I don’t really have a sensitive stomach, so I didn’t get sick at all. In other places, I would suggest bringing along some water purification tablets that you can purchase at most outdoor/camping stores.
- Essential Oil spray. Remember those free to use blankets that are rarely washed? Yeah, sometimes they contain creepy crawlies. First hand experience has proven that if you apply a bit of essential oil on your body, you’ve created an instant guard from all those creepy bloodsucking crawlies. Mosquitoes, bed bugs, lice, fleas…they all don’t like the scent of certain oils and will stay clear of anything that smells unpleasantly like them. Eucalyptus, tea tree, and lavender are all lovely scented essential oils that these critters don’t like. I once had a bad experience with mosquitoes in Amsterdam, so I went out and bought a small bottle of eucalyptus oil from an all natural health store. I didn’t have a spray bottle, but after I would shower, I would dab a bit of oil on my pulse points on my wrists and neck to keep them all at bay. Mosquitoes love me and I found that with periodic replying a bit on those pulse points, I was able to keep them off me and no bites where to be found! Applying oils also prevented me from getting lice at one hostel where my friend and I were staying. My friend unfortunately caught them, and though we were sleeping in the same bunk beds, the critters stayed clear of my oil smelling skin. So, I suggest bringing along some essential oils on your next trip. Grab a small spray bottle where you can fill it with water and add five or six drops of oil to. Shake it up and spray around your hostel bed/room upon arriving (and periodically throughout your stay), just as a precaution.
- Ziploc bags. These may be an American invention, but a great one. Don’t want to buy lunch somewhere? Go to the market and get some bread and jam or lunch meats and cheese and make sandwiches! A lot of hostels let you store food in their kitchen refrigerators, so take advantage of that by buying stuff at markets and making your own lunches. You end up saving lots of money and you end up with a lot more food!
- A snack mix. These always come in handy when on the road and you’re a bit hungry. Just get a large ziplock bag (or two) and pack these suckers with your favorite snacks. I suggest mixes of things, like a dried fruit/nut trail mix, or just a mixture of nuts and seeds as they are very filling. Chex mix is always great as well. Pack them in your carry-on and your check in and throughout your backpacking you have a great snack to take with you. Of course, you can always buy snacks as you go, but I found that these mixes were cost effective and great because I still had a little taste of home.
- Peanut butter. It is very rare that you will find peanut butter anywhere. It’s by and large an American thing, and if you’re American, you might want to consider packing a small jar of Skippy on your next backpacking trip. Jams and Nutella are readily available in most place, along with bread, and a nice PB&J sandwich is the perfect thing to pack and take along with you on those long days sightseeing. It’s also super convenient because it doesn’t need refrigeration. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack. It’s amazing and I wish I had packed some my first backpacking trip.
- Pocket tissues. Seriously, these are godsend. I’ve found that it’s always good to have tissues on you wherever you go. Sometimes it’s for a runny nose, but most of the time it’s for using that one bathroom that doesn’t have any toilet paper, when you really have to go. Tissues are always handy. And if you want to go even further, a small packet of feminine/baby wipes is also something worth packing.
- A daypack. Whether you’re the backpack-type, messenger bag-type, or purse/handbag-type, having a small daypack is a must. You’ll be exploring all kinds of places, buying and collecting things along the way. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be out all day and if you’re super practical (or on a budget), you’ll bring along a water bottle and cheap snacks/lunches with you. But you need a place to carry all of that with you plus your camera, wallet, notebook, various maps and things. This is when a small daypack comes in handy. True story, my friend pulled his small messenger bag out of his luggage at the airport and gave it to my mom, thinking he wouldn’t need it at all. Then when we were in London and it was carrying a water bottle the whole day in his hand, he caved and bought a messenger bag, which he used for the entire duration of our trip. So yeah, a daypack is important.
- A notebook and pen. I know most people nowadays take a camera–and a camera is still a must–but I find that having a notebook and pen with you should also be a must. I’m a writer and never leave the house without a notebook and pen, so maybe I’m just really biased towards this habit, but there are always those moments on a trip that you want to write down what you’re experiencing, seeing and feeling. You become inspired and sometimes you come up with ideas that you need a place to write them all down. Notebooks are great ways of documenting your trip as well and it often compliments all those lovely pictures you take too. And if you’re still not sold on this, just remember, notebooks are practical. I sometimes found myself writing down directions to a places that my friend and I wanted to hit up, so that we didn’t get too lost in all the new cities we were visiting. Another good use, writing down contact info for places you visit or people you meet along the way!